Indoor Heaters: Beneficial or Dangerous?

Whats the risk of an indoor heater?

With winter on its way to Metro Detroit, are you looking for alternative heat sources for your home? Indoor heaters may be an enticing option but you may be surprised to learn that they’ve gathered quite a reputation for dangerousness over the years. Some people claim they increase the likelihood of a major house fire or injury to children and pets. Still others claim you increase your risk for carbon monoxide poisoning in the home.

But are these risks real or imagined? Continue reading below to learn what’s real and what’s not in the discussion about the suitability of indoor heaters for your home.

Do indoor heaters increase the risk of a house fire?

Modern indoor heaters, when used properly, are not typically dangerous. However, it can be very easy to use them unsafely and improperly. Placing them too near to flammable objects and surfaces, placing them in a confined space without adequate smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, or using them around children or pets can all dramatically increase the risk of injury, fire, or even death.

In total, indoor heaters, or space heaters, contribute to over 25,000 house fires every year in the United States, some of which happened recently near Wixom. They are the leading cause of house fires in the country. And much of that total, as you might expect, is caused by people using indoor heaters improperly.

You may think that an electric indoor heater would be a lot safer. But there’s a fire risk associated with those as well. Electric indoor heaters can overload circuits and, in rare cases, cause electrical fires. (The best way to deal with this risk is to use a surge protector.)

Do indoor heaters pose a risk of injury?

The answer to this question is a loud and clear, “yes.” Indoor heaters are, by their very nature, hot (shocker). And having hot things around human beings, especially children and pets, can dramatically increase the risk of immediate injury.

Unfortunately, some people attempt to address this risk by placing the indoor heater up high on a shelf or case where it can’t be reached by a youngster’s short arms. This can significantly increase the risk of injury for two reasons. First, placing an indoor heater on a shelf right next to a wall or case can pose a fire risk. Second, indoor heaters are heavy and prone to falling, which could be disastrous if it falls from a substantial height.

As with the risk for fire, injury risk can be reduced by only using an indoor heater properly. That means placing it in an area that cannot be accessed by children or pets, leaving it at ground level, and not leaving them unattended while they’re on.

Worth the risk?

Are they worth the risk?

The answer to this question really depends on you and your living situation. If you don’t have any pets or children and your home office just keeps getting a bit too cold for comfort, an indoor heater might be the solution.

Even in those cases where it’s relatively safe to install an indoor heater, it may not be an efficient use of your home heating and cooling budget. Individual indoor heaters are a financially inefficient way to heat your home.

We’ve found a much better course of action is to have your HVAC system thoroughly inspected. Very often, finding that you need an indoor heater in one or more rooms in your house is evidence that your home’s HVAC system is either in need of some routine maintenance, more general repair, or even a complete overhaul.

Properly chosen, installed, and maintained HVAC systems should thoroughly heat every single room in your home, each day of the year. If not, there could very well be something going on with your system that needs attention sooner than later.

You may be reluctant to spend a little bit of money to bring in a licensed, certified, and qualified HVAC expert but that little bit of cash can save you a bundle down the road. And you won’t need to buy a brand new space heater!

Final Thoughts

As with many things, indoor heaters are about as dangerous as you make them. If you ignore the safety warnings, fail to read the instructions, and take foolish risks, you could certainly risk serious consequences. If you closely follow all the safety instructions, your risk drops substantially (but remains non-negligible).

All things considered, if you find yourself in need of an indoor heater, take a second look at your HVAC system and make sure it’s running as well as it could be. That’s almost always your better solution.